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Stereotype - A problem that needs to be addressed

by Srishti Sharan
(Patna, Bihar, India)

A stereotype, in its literal meaning, means having a generalized belief about a particular person, place, or thing. Stereotypes can be both positive and negative. A positive stereotype is considered a compliment, while a negative stereotype is a kind of humiliation or disrespect.
Stereotypes, both positive and negative, affect people socially and mentally. The stereotype is not a new thing. Many examples can be easily found if we turn the page of our history book. Let's understand different aspects like cause, effect, and solution.

Origin of Stereotype: Its Growth and Development
As mentioned, stereotypes are of both positive and negative types. But in this article, we will mainly discuss negative stereotypes, since they need to be discussed as they have some serious effects not only on people but on a community or place as a whole.

If we want to search for the origin point of the stereotype, then we will find that the mindset of feeling superior to others or having very high self-esteem of oneself or one's place, community, etc. can lead to stereotypes. Generally, there is a certain course of action that follows this thought. As soon as a seed of superiority is sown in our mindset, we start developing certain negative ideas about another party (the other party here refers to a person, place, or thing against whom we are developing a stereotype), and as time passes, these negative thoughts permanently reside in our mind, and based on these thoughts, we start treating the other party, ignoring the current situation or, more appropriately, the actual reality. These long-residing thoughts are what we called as preconceived ideas. How is it dangerous? It is dangerous as it kills individuality and is more like a hasty generalization, which is very harmful. Now what follows is that whenever in the real world we encounter a situation where this other party is involved, we start treating them, ignoring the present situation and actual characteristics of the other party. In the worst case, we start hating the other party and do not leave any stone unturned to disrespect them, highlighting only the negative traits of the other party in whatever way possible. In today's era of networks and social mobile phones, we use social media as a platform to spread these stereotypical ideas, and in this way, it is not limited to the individual but starts affecting others too. Other people who have not had any such thoughts in mind also come under the effect of these stereotype thoughts, and it forms a chain that infects various people with this negative notion.

Effects on another party
So, here comes the most important aspect of stereotypes, i.e., how they affect the other party who is being stereotyped. Talking about the mental effects of stereotypes in terms of a person
It is observed that the people who are being stereotyped suffer from a strong dissatisfaction with their identity. They start hesitating in public or at the workplace about revealing their real identity. In its worst phase, people even start hating everything about themselves. They start demeaning and underestimating themselves, and what it leads to is, you guessed it, a complete breakdown of their mental health. They start putting themselves on the backfoot. In this way, they are not even able to give their best in whatever they do, and these kinds of people start lagging in society or among their colleagues. So, it can be well understood how fatal a stereotype is and how fatal its effects are on an individual. It can destroy a person's life. It can even cause some serious mental ailments in them, and in the worst case, people even try to end their lives. And all these are just because of our complete reliance on our preconceived thoughts and hasty generalizations about a particular person, place, or group of people in general.

Real-life Examples
In day-to-day life, we often go through many such incidents in our family, workplace, or society where stereotypes are practiced. Speaking particularly about India, some people here are quite judgmental. They just want to judge people on some baseless parameters, which is absurd. With platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, we often come across things in which we observe a particular section of people being stereotyped based on the language they speak, the place they reside, their appearances, and the list is too long.

Every day, we come across several tweets and posts on social media in which people are stereotyping others. People belonging to a particular state are stereotyped simply because their state is poor or lagging. They are mocked even for their choice of profession. People nowadays have become language chauvinists; they start insulting someone just because they speak a particular language. There are so many examples that it is impossible to list them all. But this shows how critical this issue is and how urgently it needs to be addressed.

How to overcome Stereotype
Now, the main thing is how we can kill the virus of stereotypes within us and stop spreading toxicity. The answer is simple, yet very difficult to apply.

We have to start with ourselves. When we need to see change in society, we first need to change ourselves. We should make sure that we, as individuals, are not part of any stereotyped incident. We don't practice it with anyone. We should see and treat every individual based on his or her characteristics, not on what language he speaks, which state he or she belongs to, or what the general idea prevailing about them is in society. A small step only leads to change; society cannot be changed as a whole without individual participation. But it is also very true that the sum of every individual's change will bring change to our society and our mindset.

This is the only way to stop stereotypes; somebody has to start with themselves and be the torchbearer for a healthy and peaceful society.


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